How Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) Works and How to Choose a Proper Model
In the article we describe the working principles of software development life cycle, and discuss how to choose the most suitable SDLC model.
The constant evolution of web development tools allowed us to create software systems of such a complexity that was unimaginable a few decades ago. However, even the most advanced technology won’t guarantee the appropriate results without deep technical expertise and a proper approach.
First of all, programming languages, libraries, and frameworks are designed to solve a specific range of problems. Therefore, you should use those of them that better fit the particular needs of your business.
Another critical issue is to determine the steps your team will have to follow for final app creation. The key phases that your project consists of and rules according to which you complete them are described by the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) that should also be chosen in compliance with the project’s specifics. In this article, we’ll consider the main features of SDLC and describe how it can benefit your business.
What is SDLC and Why It’s So Important
Long story short, SDLC involves a predefined set of activities that completion is required for developing a new software product or upgrading the existing one. According to a project’s specifics, software companies choose a particular SDLC model and follow it during the entire process. Such a systematic approach ensures the high quality of the software, achieves cost-effectiveness, and optimizes the workflow.
There’s a wide variety of SDLC models, and we’ll discuss some of them more closely in the following chapters. You may not know all of them, but if you’ve ever heard of Waterfall or Scrum, you have some general understanding of how a software development life cycle may look like. A correctly chosen SDLC approach can help managers improve software quality without increasing the development time. It can be achieved by following a strictly defined plan that removes some pitfalls typical for software projects.
SDLC done right can simplify things not only for managers but for all the other team members as well. Software development team will better understand what exact activities they must work on, when tasks should be completed, what should be the deliverables, and how the overall and personal performance will be measured. When you choose a particular SDLC model to follow, each party agrees on the major goals and sees a clear plan for achieving it.
There are dozens of different SDLC techniques, and each of them works better with specific types of projects. But despite that fact, almost each of them consists of the same significant phases. Their names can differ from one company to another, but the meaning behind them stays pretty much the same.
Major SDLC Phases
Each software company has its unique vision of how a perfect SDLC should look and what activities it must contain to guarantee the best outcome. However, almost every project goes through these six phases.
Phase 1. Identifying Problems, Requirements Analysis
At this stage, the primary task is to get inputs from all the stakeholders such as customers, business analysts, developers, etc. This phase presupposes a customer’s problems definition and identifying how a software solution can facilitate their successful overcoming. . The team can then use all the information gathered during this phase to plan the further development process and choose the approach that will allow building the software solution without any significant risks.
Phase 2. Defining and Documenting Requirements
During this SDLC phase, the main goal before the team is to define all product requirements and document them. It’s also crucial to ensure that all responsible stakeholders such as the customer or analysts approve them.
Read Also: Project Scope Management in IT Projects
Phase 3. Design
The SDLC design phase starts with creating the Design Document Specification. It’s usually based on the requirements that the team has formulated and documented during the previous step. The Design Document Specification describes the architecture of the future software solution. It should be reviewed by all important stakeholders who must consider such crucial aspects as possible risks, design modularity, possible budget overruns, time on development, and many others.
Phase 4. Building the Product
That’s the step when the magic begins, and the idea of the software product finds its embodiment. At this stage, developers start to build the software solution according to the agreed initial plan. In the case if the design phase was well organized and performed according to standards, the building process could be accomplished without any significant hassle or unexpected delays.
Phase 5. Testing
Since we don’t live in a perfect world, almost every result of a software development life cycle which is more complex than a “Hello World” program has a significant number of bugs. That’s why the testing phase is unavoidable. This SDLC stage’s primary goal is to detect and fix as many bugs as possible to make sure that the product was developed in compliance with the original specifications.
Phase 6. Deployment and Further Maintenance
This stage presupposes software product deployment to the production environment and allows first users to test it in actual conditions. Many companies prefer to move the application through different deployment environments (testing or staging) before the actual release. Such an approach allows to examine software behavior and, based on this information, release it as-is or make some enhancements.
Examples of SDLC Models
There are dozens of well-tested SDLC models, each of which describes how the development team should move from one stage to another. It’s important to understand that the simplest approach to implement doesn’t always guarantee the best outcome. Therefore, you should choose the SDLC model that reflects the specifics of the project. To make it easier for you to determine which SDLC model will better suit your specific needs, we’ll consider in what situations one should prefer a particular approach.
The Waterfall is probably the most intuitive and straightforward way of organizing your project. It’s suitable not only for software development but also for many other types of projects characteristic for various fields such as building, for example. This approach implies that the development team moves from one phase to another as they complete. The best part about the waterfall is that it’s tried and tested during developers’ generations so that you won’t face any unexpected issues. The main disadvantage is the slow pace of development caused by the necessity to finish one place before proceeding to the next. The waterfall model can be a good choice when:
- Requirements are clearly determined and formulated, and you’re sure that they won’t change rapidly in the future;
- Your goal is to build something simple;
- The project is relatively short;
- You work with stable and well-tested and reliable tools.
The Spiral model can be briefly described as a recurring succession of development cycles with constant risk-control, so we can call it as a risk-driven model, which means that the overall success depends on the risks analysis phase. The four main phases of this model are: determining objectives, risk analysis phase, development phase, planning of subsequent phases. If you choose this approach, it’ll mean that the development team will go through these phases repeatedly, adding some improvements at each step. This model is suitable when:
- The project requirements aren’t precise;
- Project you are dealing with has a long-term perspective;
- There are multiple updates that should be made at a time of development;
- The risk is medium to high.
The main idea that the Agile manifesto creators were following is to make customer needs prioritized. This approach presupposes focusing on user experience, solving many older techniques’ issues, and making software pretty responsive to customer’s feedback. The Scrum model, in its turn, allows implementing Agile development methodology in practice. One of the crucial features of Scrum is an iterative process of building the final software solution. For this purpose, the project manager divides the whole project into a set of phases called “sprints,” and each phase results in a usable software product. Then, you can deliver this intermediate version of the product to a customer. Received feedback will help developers correct the initial plan. Such software development life cycle can be a decent choice if:
- Project success depends on responsiveness to customer’s requests;
- Requirements change frequently;
- The project requires constant invention;
- The process is cyclic;
- Incremental results have significant value.
The Iterative approach implies that developers quickly build the app’s initial version and then review it and improve in small iterations. Such an approach can be an excellent choice if you have to work on large software systems. It can get an application up and functional quickly to meet a business need. The Iterative model’s main disadvantage would be the high probability of rapid depletion of resources if left unchecked. You can rely on this SDLC approach when:
- The primary requirements are clearly defined;
- Some functionalities tend to evolve;
- The team is using new technology during the work on the project;
- There are high-risk features that may change in the future.
A deep understanding of software development life cycle models can be a good help for anybody who wants to create outstanding software and spend the available resources efficiently. Your business is unique, and therefore your project has its unique features. There are plenty of SDLC models to choose from, and each of them reflects these features allowing developers to increase the development speed and reduce the likelihood of risks. An adequately chosen SDLC model will help you quickly determine your project’s current state and find out the possibilities for development process improvements.
If you want to create a software solution that will solve your business problems but unsure what SDLC model will be the optimal choice, please contact us to discuss your project.